It’s Proms season again, and all my anxieties about my Britishness and the chaos into which we seem to be sliding are soothed by the presence in the media of reviews of serious music, and the pleasure being derived from it. The Guardian this morning led with a hate piece about the deatheater Blair declaring us to be his property: his, his, HIS. My fury that that evil hater is still allowed anywhere near influence was soothed by this review of the first night, which I have playing on iplayer as I write this.
It rather crept up on me this year, mainly because of technical difficulties. For several years, I have relied upon an android phone and bluetooth connections for music as I am out and about and as I cook, our kitchen radio having died and nothing stereo being available for a reasonable price, apart from bluetooth speaker things. The days of simple radio/cd players seem to have passed, as the days of cassette players passed before them. So, I bought a cheap bluetooth speaker box for the kitchen, and have regretted it ever since. Its sound is fantastic, but it is an incredibly fussy process to get music into it. One has to pair one’s phone to it which takes about ten seconds, if it wants to do it at all, then connect the phone via iplayer to the programme one wants to hear. From there, it would be simple enough, if it weren’t for the fact that our otherwise excellent wifi seems to have a block in our kitchen, so buffering occurs. Very frustrating.
For a while, my cheap Chinese phone simply wouldn’t play through the speaker and, for some reason for which I blamed the BBC, I couldn’t download programmes on iplayer on it. What was more annoying was that I couldn’t just turn the radio on and listen to it. I like to listen to In Tune as I cook. Over several years, the house-broken eccentric charm of Sean Rafferty, or the clever-best-friend coolness of Suzy Klein has become the break from feeling I should be doing something productive with the day to settling into my favourite part of every day, but particularly summer days: the evening.
Plans to buy a DAB radio have never got off the ground, partly because they don’t seem very good, and partly because we don’t have enough plug sockets in our kitchen anyway, so I had become resigned to having to listen to FLAC files through a standard music player as I cooked, and missed several months of In Tune.
It was pure luck that my acquisition of a new phone, and my renewed ability to access iplayer in the kitchen, coincided with the start of The Proms. The cheap Chinese phone is so overloaded with bloat and would require a complete OS flash to clean it out, and it was, anyway, beginning to fail to connect to mobile networks. So, a couple of months back, I began to save for a Fairphone, having been convinced that buying a new phone on the basis of price every two years is an act of thoughtless evil. All the reviews say it is fairly basic, but it seems zippy (it charges fully in under two hours) and flash to me and, best of all, everything on it works. Bluetooth connection to various devices without having to stare at the phone for ten seconds? Works. Settings for mobile access without having to go through a setup procedure? Works. iplayer streaming and downloads? It works!!! And, it doesn’t seem to struggle with a feeble wifi connection. I made a rather nice pasta slop on Wednesday night, taking some care over its preparation, and was transported back to last summer, listening to two posh young people try to be cool about being on the only British programme that won’t treat their choice of artform (in their case, classical voice performance) as geeky and weird. And the joy in Sean Rafferty’s manner as he guides them through their moment in the sun is art in itself.
Incidentally, the posh young people in question on that day were Gemma Summerfield and Gareth Brynmore-John, and they were very good. You can listen to the episode in question here, until 12th August.